RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) urges everyone to practice food safety when celebrating the Fourth of July this weekend and protect their family and friends from foodborne illnesses.
“I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable time celebrating our nation’s independence. Whether you are hosting a picnic, barbecue, family outing or on the beach, please practice social distancing and food safety,” said VDACS Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh. “Eating outside in warm weather presents a variety of food safety challenges, so take a few extra precautions to protect your family and friends from foodborne illness.”
VDACS encourages consumers to follow four basic steps to keep food safe from harmful bacteria:
Clean – Wash hands, utensils and surfaces with hot soapy water before and after food preparation, and especially after preparing meat, poultry, eggs or seafood. Thoroughly wash fresh fruits and vegetables if they are to be consumed raw.
Separate – Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood.
Cook – Cook food to the proper internal temperature and check to see if it is done thoroughly with a food thermometer. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F and until the interior is brown and poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.
Chill – Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours and make sure the refrigerator is set at 40° F or lower and the freezer is set at 0° F. When using a cooler to store your food make sure that it is packed with several inches of ice, ice packs or containers of frozen water.
Observing these guidelines can make outdoor cooking a more enjoyable experience by significantly reducing the chances of foodborne illness. For more food safety information, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888.674.6854, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, or email or chat live at ask.usda.gov.
—Michael Wallace, VDACS